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News Briefs

Creation Evolution Journal
Title: 
News Briefs
Volume: 
4
Number: 
2
Quarter: 
Spring
Page(s): 
34–44
Year: 
1983

Texas Victory

A significant victory was won in Texas this winter when citizens and citizens groups led by People for the American Way challenged the textbook selection process used by the Texas State Board of Education.

The process was originally set up so that only those citizens with complaints about a proposed textbook could testify at the public adoption hearings. This made it easy for Mel and Norma Gabler to block the adoption of textbooks that supported evolution. They simply appeared with a list of complaints that no one was allowed to answer and many of the books they condemned were not adopted. Because Texas is such a large purchaser of textbooks, this encouraged publishers to soft-pedal evolution in order to secure Texas adoption.

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What People for the American Way did was encourage Texas state legislators to sponsor bills that would change the laws under which the State Board of Education operated. Bills were proposed. To prevent their possible passage, the State Board of Education agreed in January to appoint a 13 member ad hoc committee to review the textbook selection process. On February 5 they held a public hearing on the matter. The hearing lasted eight hours, and fifty people testified on both sides of the question.

Then, on February 11, the State Board of Education ruled that both sides could now be heard in the commenting on textbooks and that rebuttals to complaints would be permitted. This was a major victory. It could easily affect textbook content in the long run and put a crimp on the efforts of the Gablers. However, this action still did not in any way change or remove the Texas Textbook Proclamation which declares that evolution cannot be treated as a "fact" in books adopted by the Board.

Battlefronts around the Nation

Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt vetoed a bill requiring that the "origin of man" be taught as "theory" in Arizona's public schools. In his April 29 veto message he said the measure was inconsistent with the spirit of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and was an apparent attempt to limit scientific study of evolution. The bill, the only creationist legislation passed in any state this year, did not survive the Governor's veto. There was insufficient support for an override.

A creationist bill was proposed in the Connecticut State Legislature by Democratic Representative Leo H. Flynn in January, but it appears to have died in the Education Committee.

A similar fate befell the creationist bill introduced in the West Virginia State Senate by Senator Homer Heck. The newspaper in the state capital, the Charleston Gazette rejoiced in this result with an editorial. The editorial's concluding words were, "Public schools have enough problems without having to cope with religious rules for science classes. The West Virginia Legislature showed good judgment in sticking to the American principle of separation of church and state."

A new "balanced treatment" creationist bill was introduced into the lower house of the Mississippi legislature. Instead of fervid, evangelical debate on the issue, the bill simply died quietly in March. Nonetheless, the bill could come up again next year.

Arkansas Attorney General Steve Clark, the man who defended creationism in the Arkansas case, is suing televangelist Pat Robertson for libel. The suit claims that Robertson, on his "700 Club" religious program, publicly criticized Clark's handling of the creation case. Clark filed his suit as a private citizen. Robertson allegedly told a nationwide audience that Clark's defense of the creation law was "crooked" and that Clark had "rigged" the trial.

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Dr. Gerald R. Bergman, an outspoken creationist, was denied tenure as a professor of education at Ohio's Bowling Green State University. Bergman claims that religious bias was behind the denial and that his civil rights have been violated. However, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission rejected his claim. Undaunted, he has filed suit in Federal court with the help of the Creation Science Legal Defense Fund. Creationists have cited Bergman's case as an example of "persecution" of creationists by the evolution "establishment," an item that they stress in debates. But there just so happen to be cases of professors not getting tenure due to their efforts on the evolution side of the controversy. No names can be mentioned, however, without the permission of those affected. In one such situation, a suit is in progress.

Cases of creationism being quietly taught in public school science classes are starting to come to light in California, Michigan, New York, and Wisconsin. It appears that when creationists fail to pass new legislation, they simply go ahead and teach creationism anyway. These abuses are difficult to ferret out and they reveal a shift in creationist tactics.

Major new battles are beginning to brew in Louisiana, California, and Iowa. Details of these, as more news is received, will be reported in future issues of Creation/Evolution.

Brontosaurus in the Congo?

In the Summer of 1981 we reported the planned expedition to Africa by Herman Regusters and others who were seeking out an alleged brontosaurus that was said to be roaming in the jungles. The expedition did take place and, at long last, all the results have been revealed. Here are the details.

Herman Regusters, a consulting engineer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, his wife Kia, cameraman Darby Switzer, and 15 native porters began the expedition in October of 1981. They were airlifted 500 miles inland to an airstrip 90 miles from Lake Tele in the Republic of the Congo. From there they journeyed 50 miles by dugout canoe and then hiked 40 miles through the swamps. It was October 27 before they reached the lake and the area where natives had told missionaries that the monster, called mokole-mbembe, had been sighted off and on for the last two centuries.

According to Regusters, two days later they had their first sighting of it. At 6:10 in the morning of October 29 they saw "the head come out of the water, travel for a quarter of a mile and dive." Regusters described the creature as "dark brownish in color, skin appeared slick and smooth, long neck, small head, snakelike." He said the animal was "not identifiable to native hunters, Congolese forest rangers, or us."

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The animal was allegedly seen again on November 1 and 2 when the head and neck emerged from the water. Efforts were made to take photos, but light conditions were poor. In none of the claimed sightings did the animal fully emerge, so its lower body was not visible. This, however, did not keep Regusters from reporting, "Its body is smaller than an elephant and larger than a hippopotamus."

On November 4, the team "heard this horrendous roar, very loud and eerie." That evening the roar was heard again. Regusters reports that a tape recording was made. Later the team tried to see if they could find a footprint, but the area proved too swampy for any impression to have been left.

The team spent a total of six weeks on the expedition before returning, skinny and exhausted. They arrived back in California in late December and had their film taken to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for careful developing.

The results of the photography were released December 22, 1981, but the tape recording was not released until May 27, 1983. None of the photographs were clear enough to be useful. However, the tape recording was sufficiently audible to make sound analyst Kenith Templin declare, ". . . it is an animal that has not been identified before." But Ian Maddieson in the University of California at Los Angeles linguistics department noted that such analysis, though procedurally sound, "is not very conclusive evidence by itself."

Concerning the whole matter, paleontologist Dr. David Whistler from the Los Angeles County Museum said, "I'm skeptical. It seems hard to believe that an animal that size could escape detection for that long." Paleontologist Dr. William Clemens of the University of California at Berkeley said he wasn't surprised at the discovery of new types of animals. "On the other hand, I'm rather dubious this is a relic from 60 million years ago or more that has existed unchanged in Africa." He argued that hundreds of animals would have had to survive through the ages to ensure the survival of that species.

There doesn't seem to be grounds, then, for the belief that a 35-foot-long brontosaurus, resembling its 80-foot-long counterpart from the age of the great reptiles, is today roaming the jungles of the Congo. Nonetheless, creationists will keep this material in their files, together with claims of plessiosaur sightings off Australia and New Zealand and the latest pictures of the Loch Ness Monster, as evidence that humans and dinosaurs have lived together.

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Forget the $100,000

Some of you may recall that in August of 1981. Texas millionaire-industrialist T. Cullen Davis, who was "born again" three years after being acquitted of murdering his 12-year-old stepdaughter, offered $100,000 to anyone who could come up with a proof of evolution that could convince him. At that time he declared, "I feel my money is absolutely safe. I invite any professor engaged in teaching evolution to come forward with his evidence. If it turns out to be factually provable, they get the money. I know they can't do it!"

Well, responses were sent in. One was published in the December, 1981 Civil Liberties as an open letter. But no one got any money. Finally, over a year later, Mr. David Stokes of Phoenix, Arizona sent in his submission. When he got no reply, he attempted to reach Davis by telephone by calling the Fort Worth offices of Davis's 80-company financial empire, Kendavis Industries. All he got was his secretary, Janie Adams. She declared that Davis had been, in the beginning, answering all responses to his offer. But then he stopped. "We got a lot of goofball responses," she said. "What Mr. Davis offered was the money to anyone who could prove the evolution of the amoeba into man. We got hundreds of responses, but no proof." She explained that the offer still stands and that Davis will pay if evolution is proved to his satisfaction, but she admitted it would be very difficult to prove anything to someone who didn't want to be convinced. Furthermore, she said she wasn't sure what Davis would consider proof.

So if you have plans of going from rags to riches, you might find your odds are better in a state lottery than by trying to collect Mr. Davis's reward.

Committees of Correspondence

The Committees of Correspondence, the local lobbying groups that are combating creationist efforts at the grass roots level, have now been officially incorporated as the National Center for Science Education. The new name was chosen because the long-range aim of the Committees is to work toward the general improvement of science education in America. Fighting the creationists is just one issue in that overall effort. This is why the need for the Committees will not vanish when the creation-evolution controversy (hopefully) dries up. Stan Weinberg was elected president.

The Committees have been very effective of late. They have disseminated information that allows school officials, speakers, and debaters to counter creationists. They have made their voices heard at local school board meetings. They have monitored creationist activities in various states. And, it appears, they have made creationists painfully aware of their presence. Examples of this latter are the frequent presence of Committee members at creationist public lectures. These members provide valuable information to the audiences when they participate in the question-and-answer periods and ask important scientific and legal questions of the creationist speakers. Their effect has gotten so devastating that Henry Morris began a lecture in Georgia recently by stating that it is getting difficult to lecture anywhere these days without being confronted by a Committee of Correspondence.

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The effect of the Committees has brought with it a collection of myths that have been repeated in various creationist publications. It is important that these false ideas be laid to rest. Here, then, are the most common charges and the factual answers to them.

MYTH: "The Committees of Correspondence are the local organizations set up by a large consortium of professional societies, universities, and governmental agencies which was organized to fight creationism." (Acts & Facts, January 1983.)

FACT: In October 1981 a conference of the executive directors of various science and teachers organizations was held at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D. C. At that time, the Committees of Correspondence already existed. It was felt that these various organizations should form a unified effort or coalition to combat creationism and support the Committees. Although many valuable personal contacts were made at this meeting, no coalition or organized support ever materialized. As it stands, every existing Committee of Correspondence, without exception, was organized by private individuals of the state or province within which the Committee functions. Some local groups were originally unaware of the Committees when they formed and only later became part of the Committee of Correspondence movement. Prior to the recent incorporation, the Committees were only a loose network of independent local groups working in a common direction. Now, with incorporation, the network will be slightly tighter, but membership of local Committees in the parent corporation is purely voluntary.

MYTH: "The Committees have chosen to work quietly and behind the scenes. . . . Members do not identify themselves to their fellow citizens. . . . the preferred approach is intimidation. . . . they do not favor the democratic process. . . . they feel that parents have no business determining the type of education their children receive." (Bible-Science Newsletter, December 1982.) "At the December 5, 1981, Evolution and Public Education seminar held at the University of Minnesota, Stanley Weinberg, one of the organizers of this movement, stated that the Committees preferred, when working in a school district, to work quietly with individual school administrators, so that they could describe creationism to educational leaders without getting creationists involved, and without too much involvement of parents in this part of the educational process." (Bible-Science Newsletter, March 1982.)

FACT: Local Committees are very public. They frequently issue news releases, have members speak at local meetings, give interviews to reporters, and occasionally contact local creationist organizers to arrange public debates. Public lobbying is a major activity of the Committees, which can hardly be called covert or secretive. As for Stanley Weinberg's statements at the University of Minnesota, he himself can answer best, to wit—

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The facts are: First, I was speaking not of the C/C's but of a different pro-evolution group, a committee of the Iowa Academy of Science. Second, my actual words, from a tape made by the University of Minnesota, were: "What we attempted to do is to present in a temperate way, to a community in difficulty, the sense of the scientific community on the issue. We enter a community or a school district only on invitation. We don't seek to enter into confrontations; our aim is to resolve them, not to provoke them." When the Iowa scientific community consults with local communities, it does not feel obligated to involve, inform, or invite the organized creationists, who represent only themselves, not the community. We have never suggested that we do not welcome consultation and discussion with parents, and with citizens of the local community in general.

Stan Weinberg's description of his actions with the Iowa Academy of Science also describes the actions of some of the local Committees. Often school officials need information on creationism and the Committees provide it so the officials can act in accord with the best scientific knowledge of our time and with the U.S. Constitution.

MYTH: "It becomes quite clear that the Committees are a special interest group intent on changing public opinion on creationism by the censoring of educational materials and the censoring [of] forums which would give citizens the ability to decide the issue for themselves." (Bible-Science Newsletter, March 1982.)

FACT: Committees do not "censor" creationist educational materials. School libraries across the nation include these materials at their discretion and the Committees have made no effort to have them removed. However, the use of these materials in public school science classes comprises a significant church-state separation problem due to the sectarian religious nature of so-called "scientific" creationism. Committee members often make it a point to remind school officials of the legal danger they put themselves in by curricular use of these materials. Committees do not "censor" private creationist meetings either. Committee members do not normally show up at those held in churches, and they merely participate in the question-and-answer sessions at those held publicly at colleges and universities. As for creationist meetings held on public school premises under the sponsorship of public school authorities, these are clearly illegal and committee members act to remind school authorities of that fact. When creationists seek to intrude into the public school system, into public museums, or other areas of government, the Committees lend their support to the embattled public officials to help insure church-state separation and the integrity of science education.

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MYTH: "[The Committees have] one religious group with which they cooperat, e, the American Humanist Association." (Bible-Science Newsletter, March 1982.)

FACT: Numerous Christian, Jewish, and other religious denominations have leaders who are active in the Committees of Correspondence. All Committees are encouraged to work with the local churches in their area. Coalitions of church groups in cooperation with the Committ, ees, , have been very influential in dealing with school boards. Most church leaders are aware that creationism is merely one brand of Christianity and that it would be unfair to give this one brand special privileges in the public schools as if they were the sole representatives of Christianity. The American Humanist Association, therefore, is merely one of the many philosophical or religious groups that the Committees have found supportive of their efforts. All these groups are involved because they are concerned primarily with church-state separation.

If you are interested in joining the Committee of Correspondence in your state, please write to Creation/Evolution for details.

Fun with Polls

Creationists are fond of polling people and coming up with statistics which show that the public wants creationism in the public schools. Two such polls were taken in 1973, one in Del Norte County, California and one in Cupertino, California. The Del Norte poll revealed that 89% of the respondents were pro-creation. The Cupertino poll found that 84.3% of the respondents wanted two-model education. Some time later, the Midwest Center of the Institute for Creation Research conducted a random telephone survey and was able to report that 64% of those called wanted two-model education. These results were reported by Richard Bliss in ICR Impact Series No. 60. In 1979, Jerry Bergman published in Vol. 6, No. 2 of Origins the results of his survey of university students. His study at Bowling Green State University in Ohio found that 91% of the undergraduate and 71.8% of the graduate students polled favored the two-model approach.

But polls taken in early 1981 showed different results. A San Francisco Chronicle phone-in poll found 73% of the respondents against the teaching of creationism. A Detroit Free Press poll came up with 71% who felt the same way. The California Poll showed opinions to be a bit more evenly divided, with 50% favoring the two-model approach and 40% opposed. The details of these polls were published in the "News Briefs" section of Creation/Evolution V and elsewhere.

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But then came a rather startling Gallup Poll, also in 1982. It surveyed the nature of creation belief in America and found that 44% agreed that "God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last ten thousand years." A total of 47% favored some form of evolution. This was reported in the "News Briefs" of Creation/Evolution VI and elsewhere.

But now new light has been thrown on the issue. This last winter the Princeton Religious Research Center reported in Emerging Trends the results of its survey that literalist belief has declined since 1963 from 65% to 37%. Meanwhile, the percentage of those who think that "the Bible is the inspired word of God, [but] not everything should be taken word for word," increased from 18% to 42%. Those who hold that "the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts, recorded by men," remained stable at 11%.

What does all of this mean? Well, with most of these polls we are comparing apples and oranges. For example, it is unknown how many of those who favor recent creation would also favor two-model education. It is also unknown how many of those who favor recent creation might not be biblical literalists. And then there is the problem that some of the survey questions may have been poorly drawn and some of the polls taken unscientifically. Finally, there is the problem that some of the polls were local while others were national. It is thus hard to derive too much meaning from all of this. Nonetheless, these polls can give us rough indications of the mood of our times.

The New Anti-Creationist Books

Normally, books debunking pseudoscience don't sell well, and so are infrequently published. Their poor sales can be attributed to the fact that believers in pseudoscience tend to buy only the books that support their beliefs, while those who reject pseudoscience tend to feel the whole subject is a waste of time and not worthy of any expenditure at all. The exception to this latter case are Christian fundamentalists. They have proven themselves willing to buy books debunking the popular pseudosciences, provided those books do their debunking from a biblical perspective. This accounts for the phenomenal sales of Clifford Wilson's Crash Go the Chariots, a book that debunks Von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods? from just that angle. It appears that those in the fight against Satan's occult works of darkness want to be armed. The rest of the population, not having such a vested interest, could hardly be concerned.

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However, beginning last year, this state of affairs began to change. New books debunking "scientific creationism" began to appear. This is not only a rare publishing event, it is a rare event in the annals of science. Seldom will leading scientists and philosophers devote time to researching a pseudoscience so they can educate the public. This time they have. Why?

The answer is simple. Ordinary pseudoscientists usually don't go political, attempt to change school curriculum, sue museums, or try to demand a major share of research grants. Creationists do. And because creationists are so threatening, scientists, teachers, school board members, and parents have become alarmed. This has created a demand for detailed information on creationism and answers to creationist arguments. Publishers are now rushing to meet that demand. To date, fourteen books debunking creationism have been issued by major publishers. They are as follows:

The Monkey Business by Niles Eldredge, Washington Square Press.

Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution by Douglas Futuyma, Pantheon.

Scientists Confront Creationism edited by Laurie Godfrey, W. W. Norton.

Evolution: Genesis and Relations by C. Leon Harris, SUNY Press.

The Neck of the Giraffe: Where Darwin Went Wrong by Francis Hitching, Ticnor & Fields.

Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism by Philip Kitcher, MIT Press.

Creationism, Science, and the Law: The Arkansas Case by Marcel C. LaFollette, MIT Press.

In the Beginning . . . A Scientist Shows Why the Creationists Are Wrong by Chris McGowan, Macmillan of Canada.

The Creation Controversy: Science or Scripture in the Schools by Dorothy Nelkin, W. W. Norton.

Creation and Evolution: Myth or Reality by Norman D. Newell, Columbia University Press.

Darwinism Defended: A Guide to the Evolution Controversies by Michael Ruse, Addison Wesley.

Did the Devil Make Darwin Do It? edited by David B. Wilson, ISU Press.

Evolution vs. Creationism: The Public Education Controversy, edited by J. Peter Zetterberg, Oryx Press.

Christianity and the Age of the Earth by Davis A. Young, Zondervan.

The two marginal titles are Hitching's The Neck of the Giraffe and Young's Christianity and the Age of the Earth. The first one tries to take a "neutral" position and disagree with both sides in some things and accept both sides in others. The second is actually written by a creationist who rejects the arguments for a young earth. It was favorably reviewed in Science.

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With all these new books hitting the market, creationists have taken note. Henry Morris, in his Director's Column in the April, 1983 Acts & Facts declared that this proliferation of books was part of "an all-out campaign against the Creator." He further argued that "a whole new scientific sub-discipline seems to have `evolved,' that of professional anti-creationism." Then he turned consumer crusader and started comparing page counts and prices in creationist vs. anti-creationist books. He said that "the sales price per page for an anti-creationist book is about three or four times that for a (completely unsubsidized) creationist book." Why he implied that anti-creationist books are all subsidized is not clear, but it may have to do with the frequent charges that creationists are well bankrolled. Certainly he wanted to counter the charge that creationists are making money from their books. Since Morris is the most prolific creationist writer of them all, perhaps he thought it best to claim that evolutionists, not creationists, were the ones after the almighty dollar. Unfortunately, Morris based his conclusion on evidence as faulty as that for his creationism. He compared the price of a creationist paperback to the prices of two anti-creationist hardcover books—and didn't even tell his readers what he was doing. Recently, one of those two anti-creationist titles came out in paperback—at a price a dollar less than the creationist paperback Morris used for comparison. So much for creationist consumer crusading.

The latest news from ICR is that Henry Morris has just written a book to counter Young's Christianity and the Age of the Earth. It is called Science, Scripture, and the Young Earth, is 35 pages long, and you can buy three for a dollar. Apparently Young's book, written from a creationist perspective and published by a leading fundamentalist publishing house, is the most threatening of all the new anti-creationist books. This would explain the rapid response by Morris.

Erratum

There was an omission in Andrew J. Petto's article, "The Turtle: Evolutionary Dilemma or Creationist Shell Game?" in Creation/Evolution X. Figure 2 was derived from a similar figure published in Vertebrate Dissection by W. F. Walker, 1970 (Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders). Therefore, the caption should have credited this source.

This version might differ slightly from the print publication.